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Zimbabwe Faces COVID-19 Vaccine Shortages

A nurse prepares to vaccinate a citizen against COVID-19, at Wilkins Hospital, Zimbabwe's main vaccination center, in Harare, May 12, 2021. (Columbus Mavhunga/VOA)

Zimbabwe has been facing a shortage of COVID-19 vaccine for more than a week, despite a government push to inoculate at least 60 percent of the country's estimated 14 million by year's end.

That shortage means Wilkins Hospital - the country's main vaccination center - is forced to turn people away.

"I had a struggle when I wanted to get my second dose of Sinovac vaccine," said a 28-year-old man who chose to be identified by his middle name, Farayi. "When I wanted to take the second one, I could not access it because there were a lot of people at Wilkins. I thought of going to Poly clinic. They said they had run out of vaccines. From there I went to Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, I was told that they had run out of vaccines. I also saw a lot of people who were turned away especially those that wanted to get their first doses."

Another person who was turned away is a 26-year-old woman who asked to be identified as Marriam.

"I went to Parirenyatwa hospital on Monday and Harare hospital, and I was told they do not have vaccinations for first doses. I intended to have first doses that day. They also said they were not sure when they would have the vaccines," she said.

Since February, Zimbabwe has received batches of COVID-19 vaccine from China, Russia and India.

Zimbabwean officials refused to comment on the shortages. Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said this week the government was still on course to achieve the required herd immunity in order to control the spread of the global pandemic.

"Regarding vaccine procurement, the public is informed that delivery of the 500,000 Sinopharm vaccine doses which were ordered from China is expected in June 2021," Mutsvangwa said.

Zimbabwe is not alone in dealing with vaccine shortages. This week, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization's regional director for Africa, said there was a need for a rapid roll out of vaccine on the continent to curtain a potential third wave of COVID-19.

"At a minimum, Africa needs at least 20 million AstraZeneca vaccines to deliver second doses for everyone who received their first shots." Moeti said. "Africa needs vaccines now. Any pause in our vaccination campaigns will lead to lost lives and lost hope. Another 200 million doses are needed so that the continent can vaccinate 10 percent of its population by September this year."

Zimbabwe has 38,854 confirmed coronavirus infections and 1,592 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University, which tracks the global outbreak.

As of Friday, just under 650,000 Zimbabweans had received their first dose of vaccine. About 305,000 had received their second shots.